Candidates don’t need troll armies to win in 2022, says think tank head

Published July 17, 2021, 2:25 PM

by Raymund Antonio

A think tank head said on Saturday, July 17, that potential candidates for the May 2022 polls don’t need a troll army, but they need volunteers like ordinary people who will fight back against the trolls.

Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit, president of Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute for Strategic and International Studies, noted that the challenge for the upcoming elections is the presence of internet trolls.

Stratbase President Dindo Manhit (ADRi/Facebook)

“You fight trolls with—maybe not trolls— but a version of a volunteer army. They have weaponized social media, so it’s time for those who are not happy with this political environment to turn it and build their own social media army,” he stated during an Archer Talks webinar on the topic, “Mapping the 2022 Political Landscape: Who’s Ahead? Do Foreign Policy Issues Matter?”

“So, it is easy to complain against it (trolls), but it is time for us going to 2022 to be part of it,” Manhit added.

People complain about trolls on social media, but “have you even answered back in social media? Have you even make a stand on this issue in the past since 2016?”

READ: Senators call for inquiry on alleged use of public funds for troll armies

“That will define 2022. We don’t take a stand, then we will know who would win,” Manhit said.

The former academician cited that it is “easy” to convert people into a troll army, citing examples of how the current political landscape on social media created internet trolls.

“You’re basically simply changing, selling a brand, pushing a product, pushing a service into saying how great President Duterte is, the faultless president or attacking the Dilawans (yellows), the reds (communists), the oligarchs, the bayarang (paid) media…so that would really shape elections,” Manhit explained.

Calling it a “pandemic of disinformation” since 2016, the former chair of the political science department of the De La Salle University said that “social media is the main battleground” for candidates of the 2022 polls.

Anyone who will make a stand by October, which is when candidates are expected to file their candidacies, “will risk everything” because trolls—amid the hardship, poverty, and hunger in the country—“are being paid to be in social media.”

READ: 1Sambayan nominees for 2022 still ‘fluid’ because they are ‘afraid’ of trolls — Carpio

For now, he believes the “alternative” candidates are being quiet, “so they won’t be trolled.”

No one has formally announced their candidacy for either the president or vice president. So far, only Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III are vocal about their intention to run as president and vice president.

Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is making the rounds, meeting with political leaders and past presidents, in a bid to consult with them about her plans to run as president.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition, has also yet to make her decision about running as president.

Of the four, Duterte-Carpio is said to have control of her father’s, President Duterte, vast troll army.